Stocks were poised for a higher open on Thursday after Germany's lower house approved new powers for the euro zone's crisis fund and U.S. economic data was stronger than forecast.
Investors had worried about funding a series of bailouts for countries like Greece, but enough German lawmakers from the center-right coalition voted in favor to give Chancellor Angela Merkel the number she needed to pass crucial euro zone policy without opposition help.
The U.S. Labor Department said applications for unemployment benefits fell by 37,000 to a seasonally adjusted 391,000 in the week ending September 24 from an upwardly revised 428,000 the prior week and better than the 420,000 estimate.
The Commerce Department said in its third and final estimate for the quarter that gross domestic product grew at annual rate of 1.3 percent up from the previously estimated 1.0 percent and a touch above economists' expectations for a 1.2 percent pace.
The news out of Germany helped as well -- that gave (the market) a lift to start and obviously getting good news on the U.S. front magnifies that, said Peter Jankovskis, co-chief investment officer at OakBrook Investments LLC in Lisle, Illinois.
Also supporting futures, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday the central bank might need to ease monetary policy further if inflation or inflation expectations fall significantly.
The Fed doesn't really talk about this, but their biggest issue is deflation, and they continue to monitor that, so if he sees any sort of deflationary spiral beginning, maybe the helicopters are going to come out and start flooding us with money, said Kim Caughey Forrest, senior equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh.
Bank shares rose in premarket, with Bank of America Corp
S&P 500 futures rose 17.5 points and were above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration of the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures gained 159 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 39.25 points.
Market volatility is likely to remain high as traders react to European headlines and attempt to gauge the commitment of governments and institutions as they work to prevent a Greek default.
At 10 a.m. (1400 GMT), the National Association of Realtors issues pending home sales for August. Economists expect a 1.8 percent drop, compared with a 1.3 percent drop in the previous month.
Materials stocks rebounded after Wednesday's selloff in commodities over global demand worries. Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc
Advanced Micro Devices Inc
(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; editing by Kenneth Barry)